Residents speak out against subdividing request, developer asks to table vote
Residents of West Palm Estates packed the City Council chambers seeking answers on the potential development of the neighborhood’s front lot on Wednesday. The City Council tabled the subdivide request by DFW Properties at the request of Billy Ward, one of the developer firm owners.
Ward and his firm will meet with residents before bringing the subdivide request back to the council.
The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the request to subdivide the residential lot into three. Residents say they were not made aware of the
Ward showed plans for three homes similar to those in West Palm Estates during the meeting Wednesday. The homes would be 1,550 square feet on approximately half of an acre with a price tag of $195,000.
Residents expressed concerns that the new development would change the dynamic of the neighborhood and decrease property values. A few passionate residents said they would consider pooling funds to purchase the lot to build a neighborhood clubhouse.
DFW Properties built West Palm Estates in 2007 and has owned the front lot since. The property has been up for sale, but with no interested buyers, developers took the first step to build on it. Since the property is already zoned as residential, the builder would not be required to present plans to the City Council for approval before construction. Any new home built would be required to follow all local ordinances and building regulations.
The City Council will have to approve a rezoning request if the developer plans to build a commercial building on the lot.
Council approves Police Chief’s request for $10,000 budget amendment
The City Council unanimously approved Port Allen Police Chief Esdron Brown’s request for $10,000 to purchase ammunition, crime scene cameras and a voice recorder.
Mayor Richard Lee slashed the police department’s capital outlay budget to 0 for the 2020-21 fiscal year. Office furniture and equipment, vehicles, firearms and equipment are included in the capital outlay budget.
A majority of the money, $7,125, will go towards ammunition. The department will spend the remainder on three crime scene camera kits and a digital voice recorder.
In recent years, spending on equipment swelled, growing from $10,945 during the 2016-17 fiscal year to $28,291 in 2017-18 and $48,813 in 2018-2019. During the 2019-20 fiscal year, which ended in June, spent just under $16,000 on equipment despite a $23,200 equipment budget additional $4,000 approved by the City Council.
The City adopted a $1.8 million budget for 2020-21, a dip of about $170,000 from the previous year.
Sewer tie-in ordinance on the horizon
The City Council agreed to introduce an ordinance amending the city’s handling of sewer connections to the city’s mainline. The ordinance’s language will be drafted over the coming weeks and discussed at next month’s meeting before the council will vote on it.
The current ordinance places the financial responsibility of tying into the city’s sewer on the homeowner. Requests by residents to have the city pay for all or a portion of their sewer tie-in sparked the change.
During the August City Council meeting, council members introduced three motions proposing the city to pay for the sewer tie-in of three properties on Avenue B and Whitehead Blvd. All failed, leaving the $13,490 bill to the property owners. During the September meeting, the City Council agreed to cover $8,890 of the expenses.
The homeowners will each pay $2,300 toward the cost of tying in their lines to the city sewer line.
Other residents have come forward to request repairs to the city’s mainline due to issues with sewer backups and service disruptions. Jack’s Place owner Jill Saia said the historic bar has struggled with sewer issues for years, having to close at least once due to flooding from the bathrooms. Two years ago, after having the line surveyed with cameras, the Saia’s requested the city fix the broken portion of the mainline believed to be causing the problems. City officials told them they could not repair the sewer line due to the river stage. Then, they were told the city did not have the money to fix the problem.
Mayor Richard Lee said city employees will dig up the line to determine whether the problem is with the mainline or the private line, the latter of which would be the Saia’s responsibility to repair.
The city is responsible for providing service from the mainline to about 25 feet onto the property, but the remainder of the connection is the property owners’ responsibility, City Attorney Evan Alvarez told the City Council in previous meetings.
Mayor Lee opposed paying any portion of the costs in previous meetings, referring to the city ordinance, which places the full financial burden of tying into the city's main sewer line on homeowners. Councilman Hugh Riviere has suggested the city charge homeowners a flat rate of approximately $2,500 for each tie-in.